We've all been there. You meet someone, you fall in love, and five (or 10, or 20) years later, you're asking yourself: What was I thinking? If you could do it all over again, you'd show yourself some self-respect and never put up with the ordeal you lived through again.
Now, don't get us wrong. Mistakes are a valuable part of life experience (in fact, that's something we've been thinking about a lot lately). But there's no need to overdo it. In the interest of learning from experience, we've put together four bona fide archetypes of the species known as Jerk. Be they male or female, these people are out there, and our dearest hope is to help you spot the warning signs before it's too late and a minor mishap turns into a major mistake. Stop, think, and ask yourself: Are you dating a jerk?
The LAFS Jerk
This is the one who falls in love with you immediately ("immediately" being somewhere in the range of two to four weeks). While he almost makes you choke on your taco when he tells you he loves you after only a handful of dates, you tell yourself you should really "trust" him. Maybe this one is different. Love At First Sight (LAFS) really does exist. So, you go for it.
You allow this person to sleep over every night, almost pretending to yourself you're already living together. It's really happening! But then week 10 rolls around. One night, he doesn't sleep over and seems a little too eager to cart his personal items home. Or maybe that wedding she excitedly invited you to as a date suddenly ceases to exist. Just a few days and abrupt emails later, all modes of communication are down, and a happenstance meeting on the street leaves you with nothing but a cold shoulder. After a full week of silence, your two best friends are willing you to "eat something." By week 12, you're strangers in the night, and all voicemails/emails go unanswered. Life goes on for the LAFS Jerk. You, however, may have diarrhea for the rest of the summer. But there's a (non-diarrhea-related) lesson here. Charm is great, but a talented charmer can turn it on anywhere, any time, with anyone. Look for the tricks that are secret and special to just the two of you — that's how you know it's the real deal.
The Sex Bot
You've always thought of yourself as someone who likes sex, with a perfectly healthy libido and a good dose of curiosity and willingness to try new things. But then you meet this apparent sex maniac, and you start feeling broken. Maybe it's a guy who complains, "My ex girlfriend would have sex with me five times a day!" or the lady who refuses to believe that, yes, you are actually tired and not just trying to get out of getting off. Before too long, the whole relationship is based on some abstract quota for gettin' busy, and if things don't go according to plan, it's alarm bells for a relationship in dire need of repair. Forget the quality of the sex — as long as you're getting down to it, it counts, right? Wrong.
First of all, feeling bad about your sex drive is not getting anyone more in the mood. Second of all, the best sex happens naturally — not because it's been weaponized, stigmatized, or codified as the lifeblood of a partnership. Sit down and talk about it fast, before the issue seeps into the rest of your love life and becomes the go-to complaint to trump all issues. Lots of sex is good if everyone's on board, but the minute it becomes a chore is the moment the mood turns ice cold. And hey, if needs aren't being met, there's no shame in the occasional solitary pleasure!
The Lazy Bum
Whether or not you're a sucker for romance, we all know this is real life, not The Notebook (oh, how it hurts to finally say it out loud). There's a time and place for grand gestures, but it's not everyone's style. That's fine; you're a reasonable person — you're not asking every Joe and Jane to sweep in with a handful of rubies and a private plane to the opera. But when you're dating somebody, maybe, just maybe, if you ask nicely, they could reward your request with a tiny sweetness?
If your loved one isn't exactly the most lovey-dovey, it may take some coercing, but the point is that any relationship is a two-way street. Chances are you've given him a back massage when you were dead tired, or picked up her little cousin at day camp to prove you're a standup type. If your request for a hot date night that does not involve movie-theater popcorn is scorned, it's a sign of something beyond pretension. It's a sign that your partner isn't willing to bend — not backward, but maybe just a little bit — to an honest, simple, easy request coming from a place of purity in your weepy, rom-com-loving, little heart. If it means that much to you, a good partner will bite the bullet and make it work once in a while, and maybe even have fun while doing it. And folks, that might just be a deal-breaker.
The Heartless Heartbreaker
Now, the old cliché of women chasing men down the street in wedding dresses is on its way to non-existence — but that doesn't mean we don't deserve (and demand) to have questions about a relationship's future treated with respect. These days, there's a new kind of commitment phobe in town. Living in the moment is all well and good, but when it's been months and you haven't been introduced to friends, or treated as more than just a friend in any environment other than the bedroom, there's fair cause for concern. You may find yourself stuck on someone who not only makes you feel less-than, but who seriously thinks of themselves as God's gift to you (congratulations!).
If you're not willing to compromise on compatibility, looks, charm, and talent, you might end up chasing after tall, handsome figures with excellent musical skills and egos to match. For the opportunity to have these self-impressed higher species of being in our lives, we put up with snide comments about our bodies, our abilities, or our supposed lack of coolness factor. Already amazed that someone this hot, smart, and sexy wants to be with us, we start to take all that snark to heart, even if all that heavenly friend wants to do is slum it with us for a while. In addition to taking constant criticism, you get shuffled into the background when it's not convenient.
This type of relationship is often characterized by unilateral relationship decisions made without your input, so you find yourself a serious girlfriend one day, a platonic chum the next. Just think about that for a second — if you're being ignored, disrespected, or treated like a convenience, maybe this beautiful creature you've found isn't the superior one. Maybe it's you.
Of course, jerks are a shape-shifting breed, prone to many forms and talents. There are endless archetypes here; some more serious than others. In the end, what matters is your own happiness. If your special friend fits some of these criteria, but you can honestly say that you're happy in the relationship, that's okay. What matters, though, is that you take the time to really ask yourself that question. The answer might make you cry, but you'll be better off in the long run.
Being hungry-for-knowledge types, we're eager to know more about the jerks in your life. What types have you dated? And now, with the power of hindsight, are you grateful for the experience? All told, we've met some real duds in our day, but then again, at least it made for a good Saturday story.
Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza